Night of Salvation
Anis Fatema :
'Lailatul Baraat', an auspicious night, is considered as the night of worship, that is performed with the noble intention of acquiring Salvation. Shab-e-Baraat is one of the sacred nights. According to Saheeh Hadith there are six sacred nights in a year. These nights are Shab-e-Qadr, Shab-e-Mi'raj, Shab-e-Baraat, the Two Nights of Eids and the Night of Arafat. These nights are enriched with serenity. These are the epitomes of grandeur and Divine Majesty. These nights bring about the tranquility of spiritually rich mind for which the believers, the devotees wait passionately.
In our society the night is known as 'Shab-e-'Barat' meaning night of 'Destiny'. Generally the night has such significance to many. But, it is a matter of awareness that 'Lailatul Baraat' (Salvation) and 'Shab-e-Barat' (Blestiny) differs in spelling and meaning. It means the night of Nazat- Salvation.
Thus this message of the night in this occasion is to observe Salat, Siam, recitation of the holy Quran, Zikr-Azkar including other directed rituals and seek the worldly welfare and Salvation for the world hereafter. Destiny (wordly) is a part of the root of the 'Night of Baraat' i.e, Night of Salvation, and not the whole.
According to scholar Syed Ashraf Ali : "On these auspicious occasions (six sacred nights including Shab-e- Barat) are a person's prayers, his or her outpourings of the hearts sentiments, the reverential expression of the soul's sincerest desire before it's Maker, never fail to evoke the most coveted response from Benign Providence."
The auspicious night on the 15th of Sha'ban has been mentioned as 'Lailatul Baraat'. Every year this night is observed with utmost respect and sovereignty. Hazrat Ali (Ra) narrates : "Rasulullah (Sm) says : Perform prayers waking up at night, when the 15th night of Sha'ban comes and perform fasting in the day and till the day time." Muslims of our sub-continent and different parts of the Muslim world spend the whole night of Shab-e-Baraat in worship, enchanting the holy names of Allah and reciting Durud Sharif. Shab-e-Baraat brings a noble opportunity to ask for Allah's forgiveness. It is called 'Lailatun nisf min Sha'ban' or 'The Night of the Middle in Sha'ban'. In Arabic the word 'Lailatun' means 'night' and the same meaning adjusts with the Persian word 'Shab'. The fifteenth day of the month of Sha'ban has been mentioned under the Persian title, 'Shab-e-Baraat'.
On this blessed night of Salvation, the Almighty Allah blesses all the spiritually sound soul depicting his Infinite Mercy. The Most Merciful Allah provides the devotees with the most coveted Divine Mercy. Ibn Maja (R) reported that Hazrat Ali (Ra) testifies that the holy Prophet (Sm) said : "On this night, from the moment the sun sets, Allah descends into the firmament of this earth and goes on asking till sunrise : Is there any seeker of Salvation, so that I may give it to him; is there anyone in need of food, so that I may feed him; is there anyone suffering, so that I may cure him ?"
Shab-e-Baraat is also mentioned in The Encyclopedia of Islam, published in Leiden. There it mentions : In Hadith it is said that in this night Allah descends to the lowest heaven. From there He calls mortals in order to grant them forgiveness of sins. This Hadith has been derived from Tirmizi Sunan (B.39) which is universally accepted to be one of the Six authentic traditional works. Some Hadith and evidences have taken place in the discussion regarding the sacred night Shab-e-Baraat serving the purpose of testifying the authenticity of this auspicious night.
Our beloved Prophet Muhammad (Sm) spent this night with complete devotion and dedication. Ayesha Siddiqa (Ra) reported that in one such night of Shab-e-Baraat she became nervous and by mistake started to think that the holy Prophet (Sm) had shuffled of the mortal coil because the Prophet (Sm) was deeply absorbed in his 'Salah' and was almost lost in a long 'Sijda'. Universally respected renown saint and scholar Hazrat Syed Abdul Quader Jilani (Ra) testifies in his 'Guniatut Talebin' that Hazrat Ayesha Siddiqa (Ra) herself heard the Holy Prophet saying: "Allah opens the doors of mercy and grace for the mankind on four nights. The two Nights of Eids, the Night of the 15th of Sha'ban, and the Night of Arafat." The two other nights Shab-e-Qadr and Shab-e-Mi'raj have been specifically referred to in the Holy Quran. The Prophet (Sm) further said , "the doors remain open throughout the nights till the Fajr prayers."
The holy night of Shab-e-Baraat is undoubtedly a night of seeking forgiveness and blessing. According to scholar Mufti Taqi Usmani : "Sha'ban is one of the meritorious months for which we find some particular instructions in the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (Sm) . It is repored in the authentic Ahadith that Muhammad (Sm) used to fast most of the month in Sha'ban. The fasts were not obligatory on him but Sha'ban is the month immediately preceding the month of Ramadan. Therefore some preparatory measures are suggested by Muhammad (Sm)." He farther added that Anas (Ra) reported that he asked Muhammad (Sm) about the most meritorious fast after the fasts of Ramadan. The blessed Prophet (Sm) replied, "Fasts of Sha'ban in honour of Ramadan."
Muslims perform Nafl ibadat on this auspicious night by following the footsteps of Prophet (Sm). From a Hadith by Usama ibn Zaid (Ra) we come to know that Muhammad (Sm) said : "That is a month (Sha'ban) between Rajab and Ramadan which is neglected by many people. And it is a month in which an account of the deeds (of human beings) is presented before the Lord of the universe. So, I wish that my deeds be presented at a time when I am in a state of fasting." Hazrat Ayesha (Ra) said , "I never saw the Messenger of Allah fasting in a month so profusely as he did in the month of Sha'ban. He used to fast in that month leaving only a few days, rather, he used to fast almost the whole of the month." For the sake of acquiring blessing and forgiveness of Allah we should know how to engage ourselves in the perfectly instructed way of worship.
A Muslim's heart gets a sophisticated shape in this night as he realizes the sacred importance of this moment. While asking for Allah's forgiveness a Muslim's heart weeps and gets shaken because of the fear of Allah. But in our society we see that some activities take place which can be considered as 'Bid'at'. This sacred night is observed in such a manner which gives birth to confusion and question. The funny and merrymaking ways of Shab-e-Baraat are deviated from the true essence of this sacred night. A section of our society celebrate this occasion in a joyous mood forgetting the significance of this glorious night. 'Atoshbazi' and extravagant 'enjoyment' have become customs of Shab-e-Baraat which are nowhere mentioned in the sacred recordings. It is high time to think of the fact that our activities should never give birth to any kind of restructuring in the name of religion, in the rules and regulations of worship. Activities in the name of 'Shab-e-Baraat' are deviations from the established and traditionally proved way of observing the night. We should acquire proper knowledge from Saheeh Hadith for the sake of proper utilization of each and every moment of this holy Night. It is a matter of repentance if we cannot derive the benefit of Mercy and Blessing of Allah Rabbul 'Alameen in the Shab-e-Baraat just because of our ignorance. The existing Bid'at practice in our society on the auspicious night is leading us towards the way of misfortune. According to Hadith : "All the Bid'at leads to deviation (from True Path) and all deviation leads to fire (Hell)". As Ummate Rasool (Sm) and true believers of Allah it is our responsibility to spread the truth of Shab-e-Baraat. This auspicious Night of quittance demands absolute solemnity and Divine Excellence. Candles and crackers and such activities are extravagant and wrong expression of celebrating the Night. The awful custom of candle and crackers has been derived from Barmecidal in Baghdad who were fire worshippers and even after accepting Islam, they just could not get rid of that practice.
We should spend the night of Shab-e-Baraat offering prayer to the Almighty Allah with the hope of forgiveness and Salvation. This noble night should be filled with our holy desires and our craving towards Heavenly blessing. With a very sophisticated mind we offer ourselves to Allah with the hope of gaining Divine Blessing and Salvation. Believing in the existence of Allah, feeling His presence everywhere, experiencing the Heavenly tune in our mind, we stand humbly in front of The Lord of the Universe to prove our slavery towards Him. Sometimes our eyes are filled with tears while reciting the Verses from the Holy Quran. We participate in the most sacred form of worship, the best form of meditation of all ages through offering Salah. We become able to uphold the true significance of Iman. Shab-e-Baraat is that Iman enhancing night that reminds us of our previous deeds- both good and evil. The solitude of Shab-e-Baraat appears with the message of success, blessing and salvation for those who are the seekers of forgiveness from Allah. Blessed are those souls who have faith and unflinching thirst for Heavenly blessing.
Shab-e-Baraat is supposed to bring blessing and mercy of Allah and Salvation in our lives. But the truth is, we are staying far away from that Divine blessing. The existing problems in our society reveal the tragedy of our misfortune. According to Baihaqi, people under the category of deviation not having Divine blessing are the mushreeks, the people who hold jealousy in their heart, the cruel people and also those who are adulterers.
In the context of Shab-e-Baraat, while we think very much of destiny and our fortune; we should not only recite the Verse of Kalam-e-Ilahi but also to be properly aware of the direction of Allah, to get rid of the corruption and injustice in the society, including the genocide and disaster prevailing in the world.
The Holy Quran reveals, "â€¦..Verily never will Allah change the condition of a people until they change it themselves (with their own souls). But when (once) Allah Willeth a people's punishment, there can be no turning it back, nor will they find, besides Him, any to protect."
We are the part of the solidarity of Muslim Ummah and we should respond to their misfortune and tragedy with prayer to Allah and at the same time the best possible co-operation to this part of humanity-victims of aggression, suppression and injustice.
A. Yusuf Ali commented, "God is not intent on punishment. He created man virtuous and pure. He gave man intelligence and knowledge; He surrounded him with all sorts of instruments of his grace and mercy. If, in spite of all this, man distort his own will and goes against God's will, yet is God's forgiveness open to him if he will take it. It is only when he has made his own sight blind and changed his own nature or soul away from the beautiful mould in which God formed it, that God's wrath will descend on him and the favourable position in which God placed him, will be changed. When once the punishment comes, there is no turning it back. None of the things which he relied upon, other than God, can possibly protect him."
If we perceive that we are not able to receive Salvation from Allah, then we must give a look to our social and personal affairs to discover the faults. Islam is the complete Code of life. The desirable success both in the life here and hereafter depends on our worldly performance. We have been provided with consciousness and also with the Divine Scripture for the nourishment of our consciousness. Islam is not merely a combination of rituals and customs. 'Ibadat' in Islam is not only established for the purpose of acquiring a separate spiritual pattern. For a Muslim to perform 'Farz' is not only a matter of religious identification. Rather it is based on strong belief and stable Iman. The firm belief in Allah and proper application of Imanic consciousness in case of our worldly dealings enable us to reach the highest level of emancipation and Salvation through purification and this state of purification gets followed by worldly peace as well as Divine success hereafter.
In our society, our surroundings, among ourselves and within our souls we need such a state of tranquility and peace that can boost up our noble thoughts through various forms of Ibadat. With a profoundly enriched spiritual mind and optimistic attitude we should prepare ourselves to worship, to meditate, to prostrate towards Allah.
Our National poet Kazi Nazrul Islam wrote in his poem in the context of Shab-e-Baraat, in 'Zulfiqar', called for the resurgence of the Muslim Ummah. The sacredness of Shab-e-Barat has been dealt with respect in the poetry by renowned poet Golam Mostafa in his poem 'Shab-e-Baraat'. Significance of this sacred night is depicted in an elaborate way in this composition.
Shab-e-Baraat is not merely a Night of occasion. Rather it is the sacred piece of hours that arrives with the glorious opportunity to gain Salvation and Divine Blessing from Allah. Moreover the holy month of Sha'ban is followed by the most glorious Ramadan. The month of Ramadan is the embodiment of welfare, emancipation and Salvation. Muslims all over the world welcome this holy month with great respect and adore. The month of Sha'ban can also be mentioned as the moulding period of time for a believing soul whichlook forward into the most effective utilization of Ramadan.
On this auspicious Night of 'Lailatul Baraat' -the 'Lailatun Nisfe min Shaban' or the popularly known Shab-e-Baraat, may The Almighty, The Most Glorious, The Most Merciful Allah accept our noble deeds. May we satisfy The Lord in order to achieve a peaceful world and the most desired Salvation-a successful Akhirat.
(The writer is a columnist, short story writer and poet).